The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. closed out the two-day run of its March select juvenile auction with a bang as an El Prado colt named El Kingdom brought the sale’s most expensive price of $450,000 March 18. But the amount wasn’t nearly enough to prevent the auction from suffering the same significant downturns that other sales of 2-year-olds in training have experienced in 2009 because of the battered world economy.
The number of horses sold and the gross revenue dropped 7.7% and 38%, respectively, from a year ago, when the auction turned in a record-setting performance. Meanwhile, the average price fell 32.9% while the median declined 30%.
“OBS did a good job,” said pinhooker Randy Hartley of Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds. “They gathered up some really good horses here, and while the market was kind of spotty, there was still plenty of money for the right horse. We’ve been spoiled, and people just paid too much money for a lot of the horses as yearlings, me included. We got stuck buying horses in one market (prior to swift deterioration of the American economy late in 2008) and selling them into another. If we can just make it out of this thing alive, I think we’ll be OK.”
OBS reported that 215 juveniles were sold for a gross of $20,681,000. The average was $96,191, and the median was $70,000. In 2008, when 233 horses were sold, the OBS March auction posted all-time highs of $33,380,000 for gross and $143,262 for average. The median of $100,000 also established a sale mark.
This year’s buy-back rate was 39.9%, up from 32.5% in 2008.
“We were off from what we did last year, and it wasn’t unexpected,” said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. “We had such a good sale last year, but we certainly were in a different environment this year, and the world’s economy is the obvious factor. On the bright side, I thought the upper end of the market was pretty competitive. There was a lot of activity there, with more than just one buyer. Below that, it was thin.”
Saying he had found the equine equivalent of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. purchased the $450,000 El Prado colt for Steve Weicholz of Boca Raton, Fla. The underbidders included David Ingordo, who was standing with Sasha Sanan, who is the son of Padua Stables’ Satish and Anne Sanan.
Dr. Barry Eisaman and his wife, Shari, offered El Kingdom in their Eisaman Equine consignment. The couple bred the handsome gray or roan colt in Kentucky in the name of EICO Stable.
“There’s nothing not to like about him,” said Plesa of El Kingdom, who worked a quarter mile in :20 4/5 prior to the OBS sale. “He’s a handsome horse, moves great, and worked faster than he was supposed to work, so he’s not a typical El Prado. He comes from a great background at Eisaman Equine. They (Barry and Shari Eisaman) bred him, and they’ve had him the whole time. They have a good handle on him, and I trust what Barry and Shari have to say.”
El Kingdom is out of the 18-year-old Dynaformer mare Rabiadella, who scored in the 1994 Senorita Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) and the 1995 Monrovia Handicap (gr. III). He is a half-brother to 2001 Canadian Handicap (Can-IIT) winner Diadella (by Diesis), who also finished second in the race in 2002 and third in 2003.
A Macho Uno filly out of Rabiadella's winning daughter by Touch Gold, Forbidden Kiss, was sold for $360,000 during the opening session of the OBS March auction.
“When you look at him (El Kingdom), he certainly fills your eye up with what he is,” Plesa said. “He kind of reminds me of LeBron James. All these horses here are young horses getting ready to start their careers. He looks like an individual that could easily pass for a horse that is older than he is, so in that way, he is the LeBron James of the sale, and we were lucky enough to get him. Hopefully, we’ll be saying the same thing a year from now.”
El Kingdom’s expensive price, according to Plesa, was no surprise.
“Honestly, yes, I did expect it; I thought he would be the sale topper,” the South Florida-based trainer said. “The market is not as good as you would like to see it as a seller, and hopefully, we were just positioned to take advantage of that and get him at somewhat of a discounted price. Two or three years ago, he would have brought more money.”
Weizcholz, El Kingdom’s new owner, “is a retired person,” Plesa said. “He’s been to the sales before and has kind of been out of the business until recently. I have a horse or two for him, and I liked this horse. He (Weizcholz) listened to me and stepped up to the plate and bought this horse.”
Shari Eisaman bought Rabiadella, carrying El Kingdom, for $85,000 from Four Star Sales, agent, at the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“He was always easy to work with, and he just fit into the pack,” Eisaman said. “He did everything right. He was push-button everything from the minute he was foaled. When I got him over here (to OBS), he really loved the synthetic racetrack. He just woke up. He was like, ‘I kind of like running on this cushy stuff.’ ”
Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, representing Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, signed the sale ticket for a $410,000 Tiznow colt, which was the second-most-expensive horse sold during the OBS March sale’s final session. Trainer Bob Baffert was the immediate underbidder.
Consigned by Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, agent, the bay juvenile is out of the 9-year-old West by West mare Reverence, who is a half-sister to stakes winners Estevan (by Grand Slam) and Field Cat (by Metfield). Country singer Toby Keith, owner of Dream Walkin’ Farms in Oklahoma, purchased the colt for $120,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale.
“We’ve been selling for him (Keith) for about three years now,” Hartley said. “He hasn’t ever come to a (juvenile) sale, thank God, because he’s a big guy and if I do bad, he would like pick me up by my head and shake me.”
The colt breezed an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5.
“He was just a nice horse that was by the right stallion and had the right walk,” said Hartley, whose pinhooking partner is Dean De Renzo. “He was also very clean on X-rays, and he showed very well. He had all the right people on him.”
The final session’s figures were 100 horses sold, a gross of $9,601,000, an average of $96,010, and a median of $66,000. The buy-back rate was 39.8%.